DOJ closes investigations into three senators who made stock transactions ahead of the pandemic

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The Department of Justice seal hangs at the headquarters in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein briefed the media about U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller announcing an indictment of 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, accusing them of interfering in the 2016 presidential election and operating fake social media accounts. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Justice Department closed investigations into three senators who had made significant stock transactions ahead of the market crash caused by the spread of coronavirus, according to Senate aides and another person familiar with the matter.

On Tuesday, the department notified attorneys for Sens. Kelly Loeffler, a Georgia Republican; Jim Inhofe, an Oklahoma Republican; and Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, that the lawmakers would not face charges over the transactions, the people said. A separate investigation into the stock sales of North Carolina Republican Sen. Richard Burr, who resigned his post as the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month, remains ongoing.

The three senators whose investigations were closed had all denied any wrongdoing related to their sales. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

“Today’s clear exoneration by the Department of Justice affirms what Senator Loeffler has said all along — she did nothing wrong,” said Stephen Lawson, a spokesman for Loeffler.

The Wall Street Journal was first to report that the Justice Department was closing the investigations.

Spokespeople for Loeffler and Feinstein had said earlier this month that they had been in touch with investigators about their transactions.

Loeffler, who drew public scrutiny after Senate records showed that her and her husband sold 27 stocks valued between $1.275 million and $3.1 million from January 24 through February 14, turned over documents to the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, her spokesperson said.

Feinstein was asked basic questions about her transactions and provided documentation to the FBI, her spokesman said. Feinstein herself did not sell any stock, according to Senate records. Her husband sold between $1.5 million and $6 million in stock of Allogene Therapeutics, a biotech company, in January and February.

Burr had become the central focus of investigators probing the lawmaker’s transactions, CNN reported last week, although his case — what could become the first prosecution under the 2012 law that banned insider trading by members of Congress — has been complicated by constitutional protections for lawmakers.

Burr, who was chairman of Senate Intelligence Committee, sold as much as $1.7 million in stocks in February, according to Senate records. The sales came after he received closed-door briefings about the coronavirus and before the markets tanked as the seriousness of the global outbreak became clear.

Burr has temporarily relinquished his chairmanship but has said he didn’t do anything wrong in his stock transactions. He has said they were based on publicly available information, not his classified briefings.

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